If you want proof positive of Michael Fassbender's range, watch his newest films — David Fincher's The Killer and Taika Waititi's Next Goal Wins — as a double feature. "They're very different," the actor chuckles. "Very different."
In The Killer, Fassbender plays a nameless hitman who goes on the run after an assassination gone wrong. In Next Goal Wins, he stars as Thomas Rongen, the real-life Dutchman tasked with coaching the infamously terrible American Samoa soccer team after they suffer the biggest loss in the history of international soccer.
Of the latter, Fassbender says, "It was challenging in the best possible way, because Taika is always trying to find the heartbeat within the story. I think he's a master of finding connectivity between human beings... If I look back at the experiences I've had to date, I feel so privileged to have worked with the directors that I've got to work with, because they're all masters in their field."
Over the years, Fassbender has played a British commando in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), the psychoanalyst Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method (2011), and an android in Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012) and its sequel, Alien: Covenant. (Which is to say nothing of his tenure as Magneto, the mutant antihero of the X-Men franchise.) He received Oscar nominations for his performances in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave (2013) and in Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs (2015).
"I try to pick things that I feel like maybe I haven't explored before. That's always an element of being out of the comfort zone, to feel a little uncomfortable in that place of, am I going to be able to do it?" the actor ruminates. "I guess I operate primarily from a place of doubt. Is it going to work? Maybe that's an Irish thing — I don't know — but, am I going to do it justice?"
Below, Fassbender shares with A.frame the five films that have had the greatest impact on him, including the Oscar-winning masterpiece that served as a "master class" when he was a young actor.
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola | Written by: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
It's got to be my favorite film. People always say, 'Don't ask me what my favorite film is!' But there is a favorite film for me. Because of where it was in my life — around that time when I decided to become an actor — it resonated so much. The Godfather is a fantastic film. In terms of the acting, the directing, the cinematography, the pace, the mood of it, it was such a master class for me. Getting into acting at that time, there was so much there.
I was probably introduced to The Godfather when I was 15, and then I realized that I was going to get into acting. And all the heroes are there: Brando, Pacino, and De Niro, obviously, coming in The Godfather Part II. That's the other thing, it's one of those things where a sequel actually matches up to the original. So, I'll put the two of them in together.
Directed by: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde | Written by: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Vincent Tavier
I got introduced to acting when I was 17, in the early to mid-'90s, and Man Bites Dog was a huge film in and around that same time. It's a Belgian film. I think they made it for like 50 grand, and it's incredible.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese | Written by: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin
Scorsese was a massive influence on me. Even though I would say my favorite Scorsese film would be Goodfellas, I have to go with Mean Streets — just because again, at that time in my life, it was such a huge influence on me. When I was 18, I got friends together and I directed a stage version of Reservoir Dogs — which would have to go down on the list as well — and played Mr. Pink, and I used Johnny Boy from Mean Streets as inspiration for my version of Mr. Pink. Those two films will kind of always be interlinked for me.
Written and Directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Love that film. I remember it was also around the time where I stopped reading reviews or watching trailers, because I remember reading a review on The Big Lebowski and it was like three stars or something. So, I didn't see it when it got the cinema release. Then I watched it at home, it just came on, and I thought, 'Wow, this is amazing!' From the beginning, Jeff Bridges strolling around a supermarket buying milk and paying for it with a check, I was in immediately. It's an incredible script. It's a great film. And that's when I said, 'Okay, I'm going to stop reading reviews on films.'
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund | Written by: Bráulio Mantovani
City of God was another time where I was like, 'I'm not going to watch trailers anymore.' I arrived for an audition in London a week early — so I arrived on the 7th, let's say, but the actual audition was the 14th. it was a Wednesday, it was raining, and I ducked into the Curzon Cinema in Soho in London and watched City of God, not having a clue about what the film was about. I remember, in the first two minutes of the film, I was on a trajectory. It was such escapism. That was the best experience. That's when I realized that's the best way to see a movie — not having a clue about it or anything about it. It was such a good afternoon.